Egyptian apostate facing death threats prevented from leaving the country

  • Date / 1 October 2009

An Egyptian Christian, Mr Maher El-Gowhary who faces a call by a leading Muslim cleric for Muslims to kill him, was last week prevented from leaving the country with his 15-year-old daughter. His plight was raised at the UN Human Rights Council on 30 September 2009 by Roy Brown, IHEU’s main representative in Geneva.

Here is the full text of his speech.

State-sanctioned Discrimination against Christians in Egypt and Malaysia

Thank you, Mr President

We welcome the report by the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Racism, and in particular his emphasis of the need to focus on incitement to hatred and actual acts of violence rather than more ephemeral issues such as defamation of religion, an issue which, as several States have observed, “has no place in human rights discourse”.

We would, however, like to draw the attention of the Council to a particular form of discrimination against those wishing to change their religion in States where – contrary to article 18.2 of the ICCPR [1] [2] – permission for citizens to change their religion has been denied.

In one case, in Malaysia, permission to register as a Christian was denied to Mrs Lina Joy on the racist grounds that she was a Malay, and therefore had to be a Muslim. [3]

In Egypt we have seen two recent cases where citizens wishing to change their religion have not only been denied that right but have been threatened with violence. We refer to the cases of Mr Mohammed Higazi and Mr Maher El-Gowhari.

Sheikh Yossef El-Badri, a leading Islamic scholar, called on Muslims to kill Maher El-Gowhari for apostasy. [4] Mr El-Gowhari was last week prevented from leaving the country with his 15 year old daughter Dina on orders from “on high”, and in contravention of Article 12.2 of the ICCPR, [5] and his life is now clearly in danger. [6]

We wish to remind States of their obligations under the ICCPR to respect the religion or beliefs of their citizens, and to condemn absolutely calls for apostates to be murdered.

For our written statement which discusses this form of abuse in greater detail, see:

UN publishes IHEU statement on religious registration in OIC member states

Thank you sir.

[1] “No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”
[2] Human Rights Committee, General Comment 22, of 30 July 1993: “the freedom to “have or to adopt” a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one’s religion or belief.”
[3] http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=466&Itemid=34
[4] http://www.unitedcopts.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3952&Itemid=71
[5] “Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own”.
[6] http://forgottenminority.blogspot.com/2009/09/muslim-convert-to-christianity.html

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